Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Explore Family-Friendly Trails at Tanglewood Nature Center
- Feet and Fingers Do the Walking on Tanglewood Nature Center’s Newest Trail
- Tanglewood Nature Center’s Residents Hit the Road
- What’s Living at Tanglewood’s Museum?
- Indulge Your Children and Yourself in a Tanglewood Nature Center Programs
- Realizing the Treasure of Tanglewood Nature Center
- If You Go To Tanglewood Nature Center
- About the Author
A turkey vulture with unorthodox dining habits, winged teaching tools, and a blind-friendly walking trail. TravelingMom’s guest author found these experiences and more at Tanglewood Nature Center in the Finger Lakes’ Elmira, NY. Her insight will help guide your visit, and what she learned will reinforce what you already know: the natural world is fragile and precious.
The sound of beating wings. The enormous eyes of a great-horned owl. The sensation of fingertips exploring a possum hide. All too often, children and adults in urban areas are unfamiliar with such experiences. For those fortunate enough to live in or visit the Finger Lakes city of Elmira, New York, Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum offer outdoor activities and indoor exhibits designed to educate and fascinate both nature neophytes and nature lovers.
Local and vacationing families, couples, and individuals can spend an entire day at Tanglewood without any danger of boredom. Between hiking trails, an interactive museum, and captivating critters, there’s no shortage of things to see, do and learn. Great care has been taken to ensure that visitors of all ages and abilities have access to Tanglewood’s amenities and programs.
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My husband and I toured Tanglewood in September 2018. Community Relations Manager, Bridget Sharry graciously agreed to be interviewed for this article. She shared Tanglewood’s story, showed us some of its unique features, and patiently answered all our questions. She also introduced us to some of the center’s winged residents.
Explore Family-Friendly Trails at Tanglewood Nature Center
Tanglewood Nature Center sits on a 300-acre property. The nine-mile trail network varied in terrain, winding its way through meadows, and along steep, hilly river banks. The trail loops vary in difficulty and length. This allows individuals of all ages and abilities to take a leisurely stroll or challenging hike.
Since Mark Twain is buried in Elmira’s Longwood Cemetery, it should come as no surprise to find red markers along the “Twain Trail.”,The markers bear wise and witty quotes such as, “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them,” and “Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.” This 3.1-mile loop, – established in 2010 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death. It also offers a stunning view from the bluffs overlooking the Chemung River Valley.
The entire trail system is a haven for birdwatchers and young naturalists. And if you wear out the trails on the Tanglewood properties, you can explore more of nature’s magnificence on an additional 50 acres at nearby Personius Woods.
Tanglewood is home to the endangered timber rattlesnake, but the trails have been specifically designed to avoid their dens. However, Bridget assured us the snakes were timid and tended to shy away from humans.
Feet and Fingers Do the Walking on Tanglewood Nature Center’s Newest Trail
Since I am blind and had my guide dog, Otto, with me, Bridget proudly showed off the recently installed trail for visitors who are blind or vision impaired. The result of a year-long Eagle Scout project, the well-researched trail offered accessibility for individuals with all levels of vision loss.
We stepped onto a smooth path with equally spaced posts running down the inner edge. The posts were connected with rope, making it easy for walkers to stay on the trail. The outer edge of the trail was lined with cages housing the hawks, owls, and vultures for which Tanglewood is best known.
On both sides of the trail, we encountered signage in Braille and large print identifying the inhabitant of a cage. “Please Touch” boxes contained such items as feathers, animal skins and other finger-friendly gifts of nature, as well as touchable replicas of assorted birds’ feet. The time spent on the trail made me realize how much I had missed at other nature centers, and how precious this experience was.
Tanglewood Nature Center’s Residents Hit the Road
In the same way students have field trips, some of the Tanglewood animals and birds have outings of their own. Staff and volunteers take them to schools, libraries, senior centers, and farmers markets, bringing education and entertainment to a six-county area.
While at Tanglewood, we made the acquaintance of Sophie the great-horned owl and Hank the red-tailed hawk. Bridget explained that birds such as Sophie and Hank are carefully selected and trained for education. “Sophie is responsible for educating 10,000 to 15,000 children a year,” she told us.
Bridget introduced us to Gridley, a full-grown small falcon about the size of a robin, Jekyll the temperamental crow, and Wilber the turkey vulture.
“He’s a real darling,” Bridget said of Wilber without a hint of sarcasm. “He likes to open up rats with his talons, eat the organs he enjoys most, and leave the rest.” But Bridget’s affection for Wilber was genuine. She made me alter my impression of him from an ugly scavenger to an adorable scamp.
Whether you encounter these critters on the road or at home at Tanglewood, they all have something to teach us. Afraid or grossed out by snakes? “The snakes do us a service by keeping down the tick population as well as the lime disease they carry,” Bridget will quickly inform you.
What’s Living at Tanglewood’s Museum?
The museum at Tanglewood is part of a larger building with spaces for educational programs and events. In fact, a children’s birthday party was in full swing during our visit
Tanglewood is home to over 40 species and 60 animals, some of whom reside in the museum. The Eastern box turtle, python and tarantula were definitely alive. But the full-size cuddly replica of a bison whom Otto found quite fascinating, definitely wasn’t. Neither were the mounted examples of native wildlife throughout the museum.
Tanglewood’s residents come from a variety of locations and situations.
“Some are household pets brought to the center by families who no longer want to care for an exotic animal,” Bridget explained. Others are former classroom pets donated by teachers who are retiring or relocating. Birds and animals who are injured in the wild are healed by wildlife rehabbers, and if they can’t be returned to the wild, live a cushy life at Tanglewood. “We really want to provide a home for them.”
Indulge Your Children and Yourself in a Tanglewood Nature Center Programs
Fun and education go hand-in-hand at Tanglewood. A variety of programs give visitors a multitude of opportunities to develop a better understanding of and respect for the natural world around them.
When visiting the Elmira area, consider letting your children participate in one of Tanglewood’s free programs. Not only will they experience nature in a new and fun way, but they will also have the opportunity to meet local children their own age. And while you’re at it, plan your visit so you can explore the world of nocturnal creatures on a nighttime nature walk.
An option for younger children is Hike, Learn and Play, a free weekly program. Sessions feature hikes, crafts, and games designed to educate little ones about the natural world around them while they’re having fun. When planning your visit, be sure to check the Tanglewood Nature Center website to see which programs might be available for your family.
For residents of the Elmira area, Tanglewood schedules a variety of activity-based programs for public school and homeschool groups. Although primarily designed for elementary school children, these programs can be adapted for older audiences. Tanglewood also offers a summer camp program on a weekly basis featuring outdoor activities and animal encounters. A robust scholarship program makes Tanglewood’s summer camps available to lower-income families.
Realizing the Treasure of Tanglewood Nature Center
Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum’s presence in the Finger Lakes spans more than four decades. It has held firm to its mission to take a leadership role in supporting education and preservation efforts. It also helps by raising awareness, and encouraging understanding and caring for the creatures with whom we share our environment.
Tanglewood is funded primarily through memberships and donations. In keeping with Rotary’s worldwide commitment to individual community involvement, the Elmira Rotary Club is a staunch Tanglewood supporter.
Tanglewood employs a team of seven dedicated staff, most of whom work part-time. As Bridget emphasized, ”an awesome core of volunteers.” Through our interaction with representatives of both, I sensed a love of nature. I also sensed a selfless devotion to the creatures who depend on them.
By the time we drove away, it had become clear to us what an important asset facilities like Tanglewood are to the communities they serve. Not only do they bring joy, appreciation, and understanding of nature to our children, they remind us how precious and fragile our natural world is. The world would be a far kinder and better place if every region had a Tanglewood Nature Center.
If You Go To Tanglewood Nature Center
Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum is located less than five miles off I-86. It’s approximately seven miles from Elmira/Corning Regional Airport. Detailed directions can be found on the Tanglewood website.
Admission to the Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum is free. Museum tours are self-guided, but staff and volunteers are available to answer questions..
- Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9am-4pm and Saturday 10am-4pm.
- Tanglewood is closed Sundays and Mondays.
- Trails are open dawn-dusk year-round.
Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum
443 Coleman Avenue
Elmira NY 14903
About the Author
Penny Zibula is a Freelance travel writer and blogger based in New Bern, North Carolina. Along with her husband and photographer, Simon Lock, and guide dog, Otto, she travels far and wide to find informative and entertaining stories to share with her readers.